Loss of Huntsman a blow to students

By By Sabriel Harris

By Sabriel Harris

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was almost definitely preparing to make a bid for president in 2012…until last week. On May 16, just after making his presidential intentions known, President Barack Obama nominated Huntsman to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China. Coincidence? I think not.

Although belonging to the Republican Party, Huntsman maintained an open-minded and progressive attitude as Utah’s governor. Under his leadership, Utah was named the Best Managed State in America by the Pew Center, and he currently serves as chairman of the Western Governors’ Association.

Huntsman’s accomplishments are endless and his dynamicism and belief in adaptation are exactly what Utah needs.

From a statement on the state’s Web site, www.utah.gov, Huntsman says it best: “The world is changing. Educating and preparing Utahns to prosper in the 21st century requires adapting our approach to the change we observe and expect to continue.”

In the past five years, Huntsman has concentrated on raising teacher compensation while increasing the core math and science programs in both public K-12 and higher education. With the recent economic crisis, tuition at the U should have skyrocketed, but Huntsman worked hard to ensure the rise in costs was less drastic and more slowly implemented than the legislature had wanted.

Huntsman has started a vital project called The 21st Century Workforce Initiative, which helps Utahns develop the necessary skills and talents for a dynamic, competitive global marketplace. Huntsman has regularly met with leaders from the Chamber of Commerce, State Board of Education, Office of Education, Utah State Board of Regents, Utah College of Applied Technology, Department of Workforce Services and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to move this initiative forward.

Utah has been blessed these past five years to have a governor who sees the full importance of higher education and how broken the Utah public school system has become. It’s a tragedy that we have to lose him. Huntsman is one of the few Republicans who could actually give Obama a run for his money in 2012.

Whatever you thought of Huntsman, he was a friend to the U. With him gone, the U’s future looks even hazier than before. The possibility, and almost inevitability, of Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert being less friendly to higher education is frightening, and would be a crippling blow to Utah’s already poor education system. How will tuition, education and the workforce change for U students? One can only wonder.

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Editor’s Note–A previous version of this story said that Huntsman had been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador. Although Huntsman was nominated by Obama, the Senate will not hold his confirmation hearings until June.

Sabriel Harris